Welcome to the Dune Special Edition Project

This is a project I have been slowly working on over the last few years with the goal of ultimately replacing many of the "outdated" special effects shots in David Lynch's 1984 version of Dune.
The project initially began as an endeavor to build a "proper" ornithopter - one with flapping wings, that neither the movie or the mini-series managed to achieve. However, with the advent of the "fan-edit" the scope of the project has expanded with the goal of updating the effects in all those places in the movie where I feel things could be significantly "improved."
Although I am currently working on this by Myself, it's a large undertaking and if there is anyone interested in helping this project along, feel free to contact Me - We might actually be able to get this project completed with a few more skilled and enthusiastic people!

Sasha Burrow

If you are curious about My professional work, I have been working as a VFX artist (Among other things) at The Asylum for the past 6 years, including visual effects on all 4 Sharknado films (Mainly stuff blowing up!).

DUNE Special Edition: Showreel March 2010

Friday, August 28, 2009

City of Arrakeen

Have finally knuckled down to work on on of the most difficult parts of this project... trying to rebuild the city of Arrakeen - where much of the action in the movie takes place. While the Arrakeen palace and nearby landing field were built as series of minatures/biggatures, and partial sets, the city itself is represented only by a couple of matte paintings.

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My revised version of the Duke's 'thopter flight requires a shot following the Duke as he flies over the city past the spice refinery and up over the shield wall. (Originally it was simply two shots in the movie that feature an almost unrecognizable 'thopter sort of flying straight up - not very interesting.)
So, in order to accomplish that I have been creating an entire 3D cityscape that can be viewed from any angle.
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I admit that I couldn't be arsed modeling buildings from scratch so I downloaded a pack of 20 tatooine buildings - originally modeled in MAX and converted to Lightwave by someone. However once I opened them up, I discovered they were badly made with incredibly high poly & point counts so I ended up having to remodel every single one of them as a lo-res model - cutting the the poly count by up to 80% in some cases. I also removed the distinctive dome shapes replacing them with sort of concave roofs. I also modeled some windtraps and other buildings based on the old DUNE 2 and DUNE 2000 games as a bit of a Easter egg.
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I've added in the 20 palm trees by the palace (a show of water wealth) - featured in several photos of the original model but not in evidence in the movie.
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Still plenty to do - Have to work on the landing filed some more and the spice silo yards and actually do the detailing on the spice refinery.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The 3rd Stage Guild Navigator

(Click on preview for larger image)
Continuing on yesterday's blue eye theme, another important character that didn't get the blue eye treatment is the 3rd Stage Guild Navigator (or even the 1st and 2nd stage navigators).
I also don't like the fact that the orange spice gas is more of a dirty brown/tan color so I've whipped up a little animation test where I rotoscoped in the gas and the blue eyes to see how it would all look.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Who Could Pose As A Freman?

(Click on images for larger version. Top: Enhanced frame. Bottom: Original Theatrical Frame)
The sadistic Piter De Vries as played wonderfully by character Actor Brad Dourif (Alien Resurrection, Lord Of The Rings) acts not only as the Baron Harkonnen's mentat but as a "twisted" mentat, he also acts as an assassin. Consuming spice in large quantities - a privilage of being the Baron's right hand man - his eyes have taken on the blue within blue coloring of a spice addict.
The Atreides worry that with those eyes, Piter would be the perfect assassin - able to pass for one of the native fremen.
However, in the movie - presumably in order to save money on the rotoscoping effect and not confuse the audience as to who the bad guys are - Piter does not have the blue within blue eyes.
I had a quick go in photoshop today at recoloring his eyes to see how he'd look. (Yes, I did muck around with the green wall as well!)

Castle Caladan

(Click previews for larger image)
For the introduction to the planet Caladan in the movie, it starts with a really awesome panning shot of enormous waves crashing against a rugged coastline, before cutting to a really awful model cliff side and totally out of scale waves, before cutting again to show the Castle where the Duke and his family reside.
My vision here, using modern digital compositing techniques, will be to extend the first panning shot, so it continues up the ragged cliffs until the castle is revealed at the top... possibly having the camera close in on the window where paul is sitting, then cutting back tot he interior shot that starts at the window with the rain outside and pans over to see Paul at his desk.
I've included an image of the model, a mock up of what I sort of want it to look lik, a render of the model and a render of the planet Caladan.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Guild Heighliner

(Click image for large view. Click post heading for animation on youtube)
Here is the massive Spacing Guild transport ship. It is so enormous, it dwarfs the huge Atreides Frigates. While most of the model is essential a lightly detailed tube, the mid-section is festooned with mechanical detail. For this I used freely available "greeble" & "nurny" detail models - usually only on two sides of the model to keep the polygon count low while rendering.
The main part of the model that is incomplete are the huge golden "doorways" that open into the interior of the Heighliner. I have various refernce pictures, but none of them show the detail clearly, so I have had to do My best to make it look ok... just have to make some "normal maps" to help create the intricate surface patterns and get some better texturing done.

Film Book

(Click images for larger view)
A simple prop model made in order to facilitate integration of the new planet models that Paul would be looking at.Considering modern technology, the size of the screen seemed too small, so I have enlarged it... however, the four circular "control" knobs while kind of simple looking in 1984 actually now resemble the control wheel of an ipod, with the black central button and a gold "navigation ring".

Emperor's Palace on Kaitain

(click images for large view)
While essentially fairly simple structures (albeit with some ornate detailing), the alternating cube step areas were difficult to work out as the reference photos were fuzzy and did not show the detail clearly. The purpose of creating this model is to feature it in the new opening sequence where the guild ship lands next to the palace.

Arakis, Dune, Desert Planet

(Click on images for larger version. Click on post title for link to animation on youtube)
Nothing tricky about this!
A simple set of nested spheres. One for the planet, one for the atmosphere.
No precipitation on Dune, so no clouds (unless they are dust or sand clouds/storms.)
I used the map in the novel to create the texture for the "main" part of the planet (the north pole to 40 degrees). Also managed to find one for the south pole - also to 40 degrees. The region in between is open desert.
My original model had the northern hemisphere map taking up the whole of the northern hemisphere and looked "wrong", so I researched it a bit further and finally took note of the note on the original map.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Emperor's Frigate and Steel Tent

I think this was the third model I started on after the Atreides Ornithopter and Frigate.
I ended up drawing all the detailed patterning on it in Adobe Illustrator and importing the line work into Lightwave and using that as the basis of the shapes. In fact, that is a process I have used for much of the detailed work as I find trying to create it directly in Lightwave is a huge hassle.
The steel tent posed a problem in modeling it, since I couldn't make one side and then clone it and taper it all since some of the shapes became distorted.
It was only while I was modeling the tent that I noticed there is a sort of "door" partway up the front face... presumably for aircraft?

Harkonnen Ornithopter

I rather like this interesting "bug-like" ornithopter, though I was never impressed by the stubby little wings on it.
This is the incomplete model of the movie 'thopter based on photos of a model kit. As Ron Miller the production artist was kind enough to send Me the blueprints, I will probably be reworking this quite considerably.
The Special Edition version will replace the round globe like "thrusters" at the end of each arm with a modified version that reflect the design established in the Special Edition version of the Atreides 'thopter, though with a distinctly Harkonnen flavor.

Atreides Ornithopter

(Click on images for larger view. Click TITLE to link to animation on youtube)
Here's the one that started it all. Modeled in Lightwave 9.5.
I first modeled the 'thopter from the theatrical release using reference photos of a really good model kit that I found on the net.
Once I had made the original one I decided to adapt it into a new "flapping" version.
As I rather like the unique "U" shape of the Harkonnen 'thopter from the movie and because nearly all technologies end up having the same basic geometry (Look at jet airplanes for example... while each manufacturer makes them look different, the same components are all there in roughly the same places), I decided to make the Atreides thopter roughly have that same shape, although in this case its more of a "V" shape.
The wings themselves have been through numerous iterations, but are ultimately a sort of flexible "Spring" in a wing shape, with a section of aircraft wing in the middle for flaps and mounting things like sensors and weapons. The underside of each wing houses a small "foot" that extends when landed to support the tal heavy design.
As in the book, the 'thopter also features small booster rockets - and I am thinking of having some unfold at the back of the central hull for landing purposes.
The landing gear was a pain in the ass to model and rig to work as I have only two or three fuzzy images of what it is supposed to look like.

Spice Harvester

(Click image to see larger view)
Here is the incomplete model of the Spice Harvester I have been working on. It's based upon as many frame captures from the DVD and still images as I could locate and a couple of photos from the ever helpful Ron Miller, who had just sold his small filming model of the spice harvester on ebay. It's interesting to note that the cockpit area on the filming models is quite different between the small and hero scale models. I chose to go with the hero scale shape. Have never been able to find an adequate image that explains how the wheels attach to the body. There are three "arms" on the small models but they are not detailed.
I also noticed that the "arm" the cockpit sits along is mounted on a trackthat leads to a "well" in the main body that is not visible in most of the movie shots. It would appear that the cockpit retracts into this "well" - possibly during transport and also for the crew to enter the main body of the Harvester, so I have rigged that to animate if need be. Also have the wheels rigged so that when the body moves the wheels all rotate at the correct speed.

Atreides Frigate

(Click Images To View Full Size)
Here is My model of the Atreides Frigate modeled in Lightwave 9.5.
It's a fairly complicated design with lots of curving, tapered surfaces and intricate surface details that were tricky to model.
This is the older version, as I was able to contact Ron Miller the production artist on the movie, who was kind enough to supply Me with some of the original blueprints and several shots of the original filming models he had in his possession . Having studied those, I can see that I am going to have to make significant changes.